The Classic Professional
Never imagining that such a job would ever come his way, Barry Laphen was both excited and apprehensive at the opportunity that lay before him in 1991, to be part of a brand new golf course in Ottawa’s east end, Camelot Golf & Country Club. Now, seventeen years later, the only golf professional that the club has known will be retiring at the end of this season. The departure does bring some sorrow for the affirmed “people person”, but in many ways it is a joyous parting. There will be more time to spend with the love of his life, Liz, plenty of golf rounds to enjoy, and additional opportunities to enjoy the company of so many friends the couple have developed through the years.
With a lifetime membership and a new role as a part-time “ambassador” at Camelot, Barry will not simply vanish from the scene. However, his absence as an active and prominent member of the CPGA Ottawa Zone on a day-to-day basis will certainly be felt. As the consummate professional he has proven to be a mentor and fine example to many other pros within the region. His work ethic, style, and abilities have always marked him as the quintessential, “classic”, golf pro. At the same time he has always been able to adapt as the business has evolved. He is a true connection between the past and the future of his profession.
The depth of Barry’s impact is no better related than by those who have worked alongside him. Marc Peterson, now the Head Professional at Rivermead Golf Club, spent five years under Barry’s tutelage. “Barry is a fantastic guy. He was a mentor to me and we remain close friends. He treats his employees with a tremendous amount of respect and he is the best PR person I have ever met in the business. He is just a great individual. He is a great example for all golf pros.”
Across the board, the opinion of Barry as a pro does not vary; he earned respect for his abilities both in the pro shop and on the golf course. In fact, even at 58, fellow pros of all ages know to keep an eye out for Laphen when he is in the field at a tournament. He has been a force to reckon with ever since he took up the game.
Barry came to golf in a classis manner, as a caddy for his father. At the time, with the family stationed at an American Air Base in England, it was baseball that occupied much of his time but eventually playing golf, rather than toting a bag for someone else, became his fascination. That continued when the family returned to Canada and the National Capital Region. Barry says he was a “solid player, but not spectacular” but that perception is clearly tempered by his modesty as twice in his teen years he won the Ottawa Valley District Junior Championship. His first membership was at Rideau Glen Golf Club in Kemptville but a move to Chaudière Golf Club (now Château Cartier) really made an impact on his life. “That was a good decision, to be able to learn from (Head Professional Stan) Kolar and have to play against so many great golfers all the time. We used to play from dawn to dusk. We’d hit balls, play 18, hit balls, and play 18 again,” says Laphen.
He grew to have a great respect for the pros working at Chaudiere, Kolar and Ernie Wakelem, and that drew him to considering working at the game. At 19 he made the leap, taking a position with Rick Boisvert at CFB Petawawa (Twin Rivers). “It was an interesting year but I wouldn’t sure if it was right for me at that point.”
Barry left the golf industry for a year and joined the Mississippi Golf Club where his father was a member. He captured the Club Championship there and one day, while playing with head professional Harry Hereford in a Pro-Am, Harry offered him a chance to get back into the pro shop. Barry says he and then fiancée, Liz, discussed it and she told him that if it was what he wanted to do then she was just fine with it.
After Mississippi Barry would go on to work at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club before moving to the Gatineau Golf Club where he earned his Class A professional status and became a head professional, the same role he would fill seven years after that at the Cedarhill Golf & Country Club. It was there he met Don Noseworthy, the visionary behind Camelot Golf & Country Club, leading Barry to his “dream job”.
Barry Laphen has had a fabulous career as a golf professional. He has worked at a number of great clubs, won many tournaments, and even garnered various awards for his work. He has been a classic example of a golf professional. And, while noteworthy, it is clear that all those material things are not the driving force for Barry’s life.
In the end, he says it is the people he meets that matter, and that, above all, is why people have so much respect for the man, and will continue to do so long after he retires.